LEARNING CURVE: Teaching your children to drive is possibly one of the last times you'll have their full, undivided attention.  Carolyn Cafini  and her son Reily Middleby.
LEARNING CURVE: Teaching your children to drive is possibly one of the last times you'll have their full, undivided attention. Carolyn Cafini and her son Reily Middleby. Patrick Woods

MJ on Sat'day: Supervisors needed for better road safety

ARE you currently engaged in teaching one of your offspring to drive, or about to be?

It can be a daunting task. Or a time for bonding. Possibly one of the last times you'll have their full, undivided attention.

So you'll want to enjoy this time together, not be stressed and arguing.

Especially while on the road! Because once they get those red Ps ... they're off!

However, there are some parents who are concerned about their ability to teach their eager young learners how to drive properly.

They worry about passing on their own bad habits and driving techniques.

Unfortunately though, not enough parents share this concern.

But speak to a driving instructor, and they'll assure you that this is quite true.

Too many learners are in fact learning bad habits and techniques from their supervising parents.

An instructor friend of mine tells me that he often gets students who have virtually done all their logbook hours, yet often the first thing he has to do for example, is teach them how to steer properly, rather than just 'manage to get around the corner'!

He observes that parents seem to think: "Well I've been driving for 30 years, of course I know how to drive ... so sure, I can teach my kid to drive just fine. No problem."

Well it seems that in fact, most can't.

This could be because perhaps Mum and Dad aren't really the greatest drivers after all.

Or it could be that even if someone is actually a half-decent driver, teaching someone that skill is a totally different matter.

Especially teaching a multi-faceted skill like driving.

It takes skill, vigilance, and ... patience. Lots of patience!

As he points out, parents need to remember that their role in the process should be as 'supervisors' ... not instructors.

The two parts go hand in hand: learning the right way to do things from a good instructor, and lots of sound practice with a supervisor.

But of course, there's no point in practising the wrong thing, is there!

Although this is often what happens; hours of practice only to result in lots of things that need to be fixed before that all-important test.

Unfortunately, driving lessons are not mandatory in Australia.

It might be good if they were, as long as the focus was on teaching people to drive well, drive safely, drive with awareness, and drive with courtesy, and not just on how to 'pass the test'.

Apparently, this is a big problem, with many instructors focused predominately only on teaching people how to 'pass the test' with the fewest amount of lessons.

Why?

Because so many learners, and their parents, wait until 'test time' to get lessons simply in order to 'learn what they need to know for the test!'

Personally, I wouldn't think this is the best strategy to create truly safer drivers on the road.

Instruction, good instruction, needs to happen early on.

As he says, the Ps test is pretty simplistic. And passing it doesn't mean you're necessarily a good driver.

It just means you're somewhat competent. And in some cases, barely competent! Because people regrettably manage to scrape through with just the bare-basic skills.

Even worse is that while someone can be taught basic driving skills, it's extremely difficult to teach responsibility, attitude, commonsense ... whether that driver is 17, 37 or 47 ... but especially at the lower end of the scale.

So, does the driver education system need to be overhauled?

And how should that be done?

Perhaps new digital logbooks could eliminate the faking of hours by tracking actual driving times and distances.

Lessons should probably be made mandatory.

Say at least 10. Supervisors taught how to supervise. And instructors monitored to ensure they're teaching the right thing.

Because surprisingly, many instructors actually teach incorrect safe-driving techniques!

Well, that's what my friend has observed.

Of course, if we were serious about reducing the road toll, and especially the devastating young driver statistics, he says there is a way ... but no government would ever do it.

What could that be I wonder?